What will HR be like in 100 years?

In 100 years, automation and technologically enhanced humans may spell the end for HR. But does the future have to be such a digital dystopia? Perhaps not.

In 100 years: man deluged by digital data

Speculation can be a dangerous thing, but a little constructive imagination about the future can also put into sharp contrast they way we live and work now.

Society is likely to be pretty different in 100 years, with technology and robots automating a lot of everyday tasks. The world of work is likely to shift dramatically too, if indeed it will exist as we know it at all. So where does the management, mentoring and nurturing of humans as resources fit in in this new world?

Doing a quick Google search on this topic brought up plenty of articles about human society and work in 100 years, but not one of them painted the picture of a world I’d want to live or work in. And as for HR? The future might not be so bright.

Big brother’s right-hand man

One hot topic in the realm of futurology is the increase in wearable and perhaps even implantable technology that will enhance our minds and productivity while feeding back detailed, real-time biometric data to our employer overlords.

HR’s role in this scenario might be managing and analysing highly personal data and filtering employees based on brain wave patterns or irregular alcohol levels on a Saturday night.

The only people left in the company would likely end up mindless automatons, healthy eaters who take part in responsible community activities in their spare time and regularly upload new updates to their brain software to move up the career ladder.

Honestly, would anyone working in HR now really want to become a biometrics data auditor, responsible for deciding how a company can use the intimate data of each employee and policing the private life of anyone wanting a job?

High-tech software engineers

Another big topic just now is automation and it’s ‘wondrous’ possibilities. Of course, being able to automate mundane or dangerous tasks is a great thing. Some estimates say automation could save up to 12 workers’ lives a day. But take this a step further and companies start turning into a collection of intelligent machines.

Already, software exists (and is used by major publishing brands) that creates computer-generated copy. No more human writers needed (great, what do I do now?) If everything can be automated, who will there be for HR to manage and nurture in a hundred years’ time?

No, instead HR will have to manage the various intelligent systems, tweaking and coding so they can be promoted to ever-increasing tasks. The ‘H’ in HR will become obsolete, and those still in the profession will be consigned to managing purely mechanical resources.

Light at the end of the 100-years tunnel

Of course society doesn’t have to go this way. Automation doesn’t have to mean human redundancy. James Cascio envisions a future (assuming we all survive the zombie apocalypse) much like the Burning Man festival gone global:

[This would involve] acceptance of cultural experimentation, and the dominance of the leisure society [where] robots do all of the work [and] humans get to play/make art/take drugs/have sex.

And where, one might wonder, is HR is this scenario? In the development, education and application of the skills that people choose to adopt of course.

HR will become society’s mentor for artists, poets, carpenters and software designers. Perhaps this will be a government role, or perhaps a vocation in itself, paid for through whatever currency or exchange mechanism remains in this brightly burning future.

Either way, the people skills and altruistic tendencies of some in HR would be heartily fulfilled.

Nurturing a tax on time

Or perhaps 100 years isn’t quite long enough to reach a hedonistic society of artists and free-lovers. Technology is moving fast, but not so fast that every essential function in society will be digitised in just a century.

The halfway point might be a switch in the currency that drives society from money, to time. Rather than working for money, which is then taxed to pay for the services we use and need, we will all receive a standard stipend from the government necessary to sustain ourselves.

In return, we are taxed a certain amount of our time that we must dedicate to national services. HR in this world would definitely become a public service, managing and monitoring a population and their wide-ranging skills and putting them to best use across society as they’re needed.

Where would you want to be in 100 years?

These last two scenarios sound rather good to me, but then again, perhaps they’re someone else’s Orwellian nightmare. The point is, that while we have a great deal of potential for change thanks to the emerging technologies and trends of today, we have to nurture the future they create.

Without collective supervision, who knows where we could be in 100 years time?

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